We were able to get our hands on the early beta build of Wasteland 2 that is currently available on Steam, and so far the game seems to be turning out quite nicely. I’ve put in about 15 hours over the past week or so and in that time I was already able to see a huge difference in the game brought about by the most recent build. I can only imagine how much the game has changed shape during its development. It’s a pretty cool thing to actually get to experience.
For anybody who might not be aware, Wasteland 2 is the sequel to Wasteland and is pretty much the closest thing we will ever get to a classic Fallout experience. Actually, I think the same people who made Wasteland also did Fallout 1 and are now working on Wasteland 2. To be honest I kind of get all of these developers like Tim Cain and Brian Fargo mixed up, and I can never remember who made Fallout but didn’t work on 2 and who did Arcanum and so on. Anyway, the original Wasteland came out like a year or so after I was born so I never really got a good chance to play it. I do remember years and years ago trying the game out, but I think I might have been too dumb to understand what to do and what was going on. It happens from time to time.
So what’s it like?
If you have played the first couple of Fallout games then it will feel immediately familiar. You are in a post-apocalyptic world and you run around with a zoomed out birds-eye view of your character. Before you start out you need to make your party or at least use the pre-made characters. Unlike Fallout you start out with four characters that make up your squad. You can go with less than that but that’s probably at your own risk. Each character gets points to drop into their stats which are similar to Fallout’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system and actually spell out C.L.A.S.S.I.C. which I just realized right now. After that you get to spread out some skill points into combat, knowledge, and general skills. There’s stuff like different weapon specializations, computer and repair skills, medical and doctor stuff, lock and safe cracking, coversation skills, etc. Again, very familiar stuff if you have played Fallout before.
So after you make your character(s) you find yourself outside of a Desert Ranger facility. You’re attending the burial of a recently deceased ranger, Ace, who was killed in the line of duty. Before you are fully admitted into the Desert Rangers you must first recover some missing repeater units that Ace was in charge of and go on to finish his mission of installing them in nearby radio towers. Once you leave the Rangers HQ you enter into the travel map which shows a zoomed out perspective of the environment. Your party travels along as a little pointer and you have to make sure you don’t run out of water and also be careful of random encounters and radiation. It’s pretty much exactly how traveling in Fallout was. I should probably mention that I’m not entirely sure how radiation in this game works. On the travel map you can irradiated areas and you do have some kind of Geiger counter on the lower HUD but I’m not sure if radiation stays with you or if it just damages you. From what I can tell it only seems to have a damaging effect and doesn’t have any lingering presence but I’m not 100% on that.
The game starts to open up more after you complete the first part of your mission, recovering the repeaters. I started exploring around a bit and found my way to some large area where two rival tribes were fighting over rails and ownership of a sacred golden spike that was given to them by their rail god John Henry. It’s all fascinating stuff and the whole thing felt very nostalgic and exactly like the kind of stuff you do in the older Fallout games. Once you do decide to go on with your main objective you discover that both locations seem to be under attack. The Ag Center seems to be having a problem with their plant and animal life growing to crazy sizes and infecting workers while Highpool seems to be under raider attack. As far as I know there is only enough time to save one of the two locations, leaving the second choice to be doomed to it’s fate. In my current run I just finished up the Ag Center and have now moved onto Highpool. I’m not entirely sure what to except but I imagine it will be a lot different than if I had come here first.
Combat and Alternate Ways of Achieving Your Goals
I haven’t mentioned the combat yet so I should probably get to that. Again, it is very similar to Fallout 1 and 2. Once combat initiates the game switches to a turn-based mode and the action order is decided. When it is your character’s turn you get several action points, the number being based mostly on your stats but you can carry some over or get more if you are lucky. Pretty much everything requires a certain amount of action points to do, be it shoot, reloading, using something, etc. Except I think you can freely switch to a secondary weapon so there is that. They take the combat beyond classic fallout gameplay with new stuff like crouching, taking cover, and ambushing (pretty much like overwatch in XCOM). I don’t think you can specifically target certain body parts unless there is something is totally overlooked. It’s a bit of a bummer that I can’t shoot people in the groin but I think I’ll live.
Sometimes fighting isn’t the answer or at least not the one you want to use. There are several ways you can tackle your objectives and you have a lot of options open to you if you have the right skills. Skills like Computer Science, lock picking, surgeon (I think?), demolition, and brute force let you tackle obstacles in unique ways. Say if you have a locked door, for example. Sometimes you can hack a nearby panel to unlock it or maybe you can pick the lock. If that isn’t your speed you can try to brute force the door down. Or maybe you don’t have the patience or skills to solve your problems so you just hurl an explosive at it, which may have messy results but it works surprisingly well on a lot of things. I’m interested in finding out how much differently you can accomplish things later on and how the story might differ if you do things differently.
Some Minor Critiques
Wasteland 2 is still in early stages and doesn’t fully release until August, I think, so there is still a lot of time for stuff to potentially change. I’m enjoying the experience immensely so far but there are a few things that kind of bother me. The first major one is that the Charisma stat doesn’t seem to be living up to it’s full potential, especially when so many of the other skills seem so vital. Intelligence pretty much has to be set at at least 6 if you want a decent amount of skill points per level, but back to what I was saying… Charisma does seem to do a lot lot for you that can’t already be done with one of the conversation skills like Smart, hard, and kiss ass. The other thing that kind of bothers me is how you start out with four characters. Maybe this doesn’t really seem like that much of an issue since you can play with whatever amount of 1-4 that you want but I’m not sure how viable a one person game would be, especially on some of the harder difficulties. Some of the encounters are really tough even with a full party.
Anyway, the problem I’m having with four party members is that it seems to destroy any real sense of specialization. In Fallout you might make a really smart character that is good with tech and medicine and solving problems through non-violent means. Or maybe you want a guy who can wade in and wreck shit or maybe you want a really charismatic thiefy dude who can talk his way into and out of anything or break into and steal whatever he wants if that doesn’t work. In Wasteland 2 I pretty much have a party member that falls into each and every category that I need so there really is no situation that I can run into and not be prepared for which in the end makes things a little less interesting and hurts replay value for me. I’ll have to do some tinkering with the party size and difficulty options to find a sweet spot but I can’t imagine that this is something I can’t fix or get over.
Wasteland 2 is, so far, a very fun and engaging experience that really carries with it the spirit of games that came before it. I’m very interested in seeing the rest of what is currently accessible in this build and I’m REALLY excited about the lush, green areas in and around LA that aren’t even in the game yet. I don’t think I’ve experienced a post-apocalyptic game that had that kind of atmosphere so it should be very interesting to see. Wasteland 2 is definitely one to keep an eye on if you aren’t already.